The unofficial theme of geography and mapping firm Esri’s fourth-annual Geodesign Summit might as well have been “the cloud.” Nearly every presenter at the event, held on January 24th and 25th in Redlands, California, referred to the decentralized, virtual network of software and data storage as the key factor in the growing importance of geographic information systems systems (GIS). The summit brought together architects, engineers, geographers, and software programmers for presentations focused on software like Esri’s ubiquitous ArcGIS and for discussions about how such tools will eventually, if not quite yet, underpin landscape, urban, and planning design projects.
Dave Bartlett, who leads IBM’s Smarter Buildings initiative, presented a case study the company developed with the Los Angeles Unified School District. The study combined a smart phone photo application with GIS data and allowed students and teachers to document maintenance issues in the district’s facilities. “People are the smartest sensors we have,” Bartlett said. Christian Gass, a planner with the Canadian firm O2 Planning and Design, presented case studies of three Canadian cities that modeled the impact of proposed design and master plan guidelines on physical development. The virtual neighborhood scenarios were then evaluated against triple bottom line metrics for social, environmental, and economic performance.